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Donations pour in as shark victim shows improvement

Intestinal bleeding that began Monday in shark bite victim Jessie Arbogast has been stopped by medication, doctors at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital said Tuesday.

The 8-year-old Ocean Springs, Miss., boy, whose right arm was reattached by surgeons after a 7-foot bull shark bit it off near a Pensacola beach July 6, was still listed in critical but stable condition.

Dr. Rex Northup, lead physician, said the boy remained in a light coma but showed neurological improvement by coughing, yawning and moving his head sideways.

He opens his eyes but does not consistently focus on any object. He shifts his eyes toward noise and closes them to bright light, the doctor said in a news release.

"Jessie's lungs and heart look and sound good, and there is evidence that Jessie's kidneys are slowly trying to come back on line," Northup said. Jessie has been undergoing dialysis since his kidneys failed within two days of the attack.

The boy was to return to the operating room later Tuesday to have his wounds cleaned and possibly undergo more pigskin grafting on his right thigh, also severely bitten.

In Biloxi, Miss., a bank said it has received more than 400 letters with donations to the Jessie Arbogast medical fund, with some coming from as far away as the United Kingdom.

"The response has been overwhelming," said Hancock Bank's Paul Maxwell, who found some of the letters particularly touching. The bank "received one note and contribution from two little boys in Texas who robbed their piggy bank and sent $1.77. One girl had just made $10 from babysitting and sent that."

Jessie has been the focus of international attention. Much of it has been on the heroic efforts to save him, both on the beach by his uncle and two other men who grappled with and killed the shark to recover the arm, and in the hospital. The family has said it is grateful for the support but has declined interviews.

The Pensacola and Mississippi coast communities have been generous with blood and donation drives. Ocean Springs, Miss., Jessie's hometown, has yellow ribbons everywhere.

When the fund to defray expenses was established, Maxwell said, "the public response was almost immediate." Although he would not release the current balance, he said donations have ranged from nominal to "some pretty substantial."

Maxwell said the letters will be passed along to Jessie's family. As of Monday, the family also had received more than 600 e-mailed well-wishes.

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